PRIZE WINNING BOOKS 2021
Τhis year, as promised we launch a new page on eyelands book awards, dedicated to the prize winning books, with excerpts of the books that won a prize in EBA 2021. With the permission of the authors we present a small excerpt between 500-700 words available to everyone! Every week, from April till 20 of June, there will be a new post at this page from our prize winning books.
You can find the text translated into Greek on http://www.eyelands.gr every Saturday!
U-18 Category: 1941 / Abigail Keoghan /Ireland
She thought of her father and the soldiers being killed, the thoughts of Conor leaving her and her family finding out she was dead; they were flooding her head. “No, no, please no, stop it” Aoife yelled “Leave me alone”. She placed both of her hands on top of her head like she had a headache. She arrived at the channel in time. She made it there, all by herself; she didn’t need anyone to finish this mission. Aoife sped into the bunker as fast as lightning. She saw a man of average height with short dark golden hair and eyes the colour of the sea. Aoife ran towards him.
“ Hello, who are you?” Aoife asked the man. The man turned his head to see Aoife.
“I am Lieutenant Mackenzie, what are you doing here?” the man asked. Aoife was stammering until she remembered what the mission was about. “I came from England with a message from GeneralKemp, the attack needs to be called off” Aoife panted.
Lieutenant Mackenzie looked at Aoife with suspicious eyes. “I don’t trust any girl who says that” Lieutenant Mackenzie replied. Mackenzie walked off and called the attack. “ No, don’t please” Aoife screamed.
The attack was launched but the Germans were prepared for this. All of a sudden, there was blood-curdling screams, gunshots and explosions. Aoife ran out there as fast as she could to see hundreds of people running and falling to the ground. She had to run, there was no turning back. She ran like she was being chased by a bear. Aoife ran as people were falling and explosions were ignited. She saw a boy in front of him fall to the ground, his leg was stuck. Aoife needed to help him. She ran up to him. The boy was tall and had black curly hair, tanned skin and gentle mocha eyes. She went onto her knees to release his foot from the hole. “Are youokay?” Aoife asked.
The boy looked to her “I’m fine” he replied breathless.
“What’s your name?” Aoife didn’t look up, she needed to help. “Aoife, you?” Aoife replied monotonously. He looked at her “Zachary” he replied with a smile on his face. She released his foot from the hole. Zachary stood up.
“May God bless you, Aoife” Zachary thanked Aoife; before running. Before Aoife ran after him, Aoife’s photo flew out of her pocket, it was flying through the wind, Aoife ran after it. She needed it. She depended on it. Suddenly, a bullet flew through the photo needed it. She depended on it. Suddenly, a bullet flew through the photo and it was obliterated.
Aoife stood still in shock. “No” Aoife whispered. Aoife needed to move but she couldn’t. All the other soldiers were running past her until one of them pushed into her causing her to land on the muddy, ash-covered grounds, causing her to become unconscious.
Aoife woke up a couple of hours later, hearing nothing. The entire landscape was foggy and white. She rose up from the white and greyground that was once green. She looked around she saw hundreds of bodies, none were alive.Aoife couldn’t believe it. Britain had lost. Aoife was on the brink of tears. Aoife had failed her mission. She lost everything, her partner, her family, her father, everything. Suddenly Aoife heard a noise coming from the fog.
“Any survivors?” a familiar voice called. It couldn’t be. it just couldn’t.
“Any survivors?” the voice called once more. Aoife rose up ready to shout. “Dad!” Aoife cried. “Dad, I’m here!” Aoife began running with tears inher eyes to the voice, she saw somebody ahead of her. A tall man with dark brown hair multi-coloured eyes and fair skin, was just ahead of her.
“Dad, I’m over here” Aoife called once again. The man turned to herdirection. The man who once had once a frown on his face, was no more.The man had pure happiness in his eyes when he saw his daughter. They both embraced each other in their arms. “I love you, Dad” Aoife cried.Her eyes would stop releasing tears as she hugged her father. “I love you too, Aoife” her father replied.
My name is Abigail Keoghan and I live in Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland. I am twelve years old and I have a younger sister who is seven years old. I got my inspiration for writing by my book-loving aunts both wishing to publish a book. I love to write. My first book that I wrote was called 1941. It was about a young fourteen year old girl who went on a mission to save her father. I entered it into a competition when I was ten. Sadly I didn’t win but I decided to enter another competition the Eyelands book awards competition with Kenya’s Education (originally called Education or not I must learn something). I just love to write and I wish to become an author or artist when I am older.
Unpublished: The Grinning Throat (Mudlark Mystery 1) Kate Wiseman/ UK
The Mudlark Mysteries
The Grinning Throat
My first thought is that it’s a pig that someone has lost to the river. Maybe that’s because food is always on mind. I’m permanently hungry and wishing for delicious, unattainable things to eat.
I think that the pig must have fallen off one of the barges that choke up the Thames. They’re a constant feature, toiling up and down day and night, giving off choking smoke that clings to the water. I’m shocked by this carelessness and I wonder that the owner didn’t try to retrieve it – pork’s expensive. A luxury. I haven’t tasted any since Dad died. Or precious little meat of any variety, if I’m honest.
The pig’s head is out of sight, hidden under the remains of a wooden crate. I’m surprised that no one’s lifted that. Wood’s got a value. Nothing to write home about – a halfpenny maybe – but beggars can’t be choosers and if we aren’t quite beggars, we’re only one step above it. The pig will still have some worth, too, if it’s not too far gone. Maybe we could clean it up and eat it some of it ourselves. The thought of meat, even meat that has been tainted by this river full of unsavoury debris, makes my mouth water.
I wonder how we missed this, the last time we were here. It must have been the excitement of making the Find.
Then it dawns on me that what I thought was some kind of cloth, wrapped around the carcass, isn’t that at all. The pig is wearing a suit, so mired by mud that I can’t even begin to guess its colour. Odd. But this is London and odd things happen all the time. Perhaps this was a lark by some gents with time on their hands and more money than sense. We see a lot of those on the foreshore.
Usually they’ve lost their precious pocket watch or wedding ring while they were three sheets to the wind and they’re trying to recover it before their wives or sweethearts find out. I’ve helped out gents like that before and they’re pretty grateful if you manage to find their lost possession, especially if you hold back from ‘discovering’ it until they’re close to desperation. There was a time when deceptions like that would have made me feel guilty, but those days have gone. You forget scruples when you’re fighting to survive.
I’m so busy calculating the value of these unexpected finds, and wondering who’s likely to give us the best price for what – Hopper for the suit, I think, although he’s a frowsty old miser who’d enjoy taking advantage of a couple of orphans if I let him, and Jack Frost for the meat, once we’ve sliced off a few of the best cuts – that it takes a while for the penny to drop. A pig? In a suit? I peer closer. My stomach does a flip. Hunger is making me stupid.
This must be what Hempson was looking for. Why he was so cagey.
‘Edie, stay back,’ I rap out the words, glancing over my shoulder. If this is what I think it is, she mustn’t see it.
Thankfully my sister is still twenty yards away, eyes roaming over the foreshore and the ramshackle hut lurking at its edge. She hasn’t noticed the thing in the mud. I think for the thousandth time that she’s really not cut out to be a mudlark. There’s no room for daydreamers on the foreshore. It’s nasty and it’s dangerous. But the alternative is even worse.
‘Have you found something exciting, Joe?’ she lifts her skirts in a pointless attempt to keep them clear of the filth and actually moves closer, eager to see what I’ve found.
‘NO!’ I swing around and glare into her eyes. ‘Stay there! I mean it!’ Surprised, she looks into my eyes. I’m never angry with her. Then she cranes around me to try and see what I’m looking at. Her mouth drops open.
‘Is that a –?’
‘I don’t know. I’ll check-‘ I try to keep the dread out of my voice. ‘Please, Edie, I need to check before you get too close.’
Every mudlark comes across dead bodies from time to time. It’s inevitable, London being what it is. But I haven’t got used to the sight, the smell, the stillness and the total absence of humanity in those I’ve discovered. I think I never will. Visions of those I’ve found, dumped as if they’re just another bit of rubbish, creep up on me when I allow my mind to relax. Nights are the worst. Sometimes I wake to blackness, heart thumping at apparitions of green flesh and eyeless faces. Please, don’t let this be another one to haunt my dreams.
So far, I’ve managed to shield Edie from such sights and I want to keep it that way. She’s too young. I know her unworldliness can’t last much longer, not in dog-eat-dog London, but as I see it, every extra day is a bonus, and I’m the only one who can prolong it. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to protect her for just a little bit longer. That’s my job. I owe it to Dad.
Edie drops her head and stares hard at the sprinkling of shingle that’s leaving a trail across the mud. I think she has forgotten that she’s supposed to be my lookout, but that’s understandable.
I turn back to the thing on the shore, delving deep into the gritty pockets of my greatcoat for my talisman. There it is. Warm in spite of the cold day. Reassuring to the touch. I wrap my fingers around it and squeeze it and for a second it feels as if Dad is looking out for me.
I can do this.
Holding my breath, I bend down to lift away the crate.
Kate is a children’s writer. She lives in Saffron Walden with her husband, her son (when he’s home from university) and three neurotic cats. One of her cats, Maisie, is actually a ghost cat now, but Kate still talks to her every day.
Children’s book/Published: Sailing away to Nod/ Brenda M. Spalding/USA
Once upon a time, a young boy sailed on an ink black sea. The stars overhead twinkled and the moon showed the way. The little boat tossed and followed the wind to a far distant shore. The little boy left the boat and went to explore, as he had done so many times before. He trudged through the sand and followed the tracks that the sea turtles made. Along the way he gathered some shells, some smooth round stones, still warm from the sun and some bright pieces of sea glass all left by the waves. Beyond the sand and beyond the trees, he could see bright colored flags waving on a castle high on a hill.
He followed a path through the cool dark forest until he came to a clearing in the woods. In the clearing was a small cottage in need of repair. The roof was all sagging and the door off the hinges.
A strange little man sat in front of the door smoking a long stemmed pipe. He had an old battered hat perched on top of his head and a long white beard matched the hair on his head.
A gnome, a dwarf, the boy couldn’t tell. The man looked up as the boy approached. “Go away, there is nothing left to steal,” growled the little man.
“I’m not here to steal,” replied the boy. “I’m here to explore and see what I can see in this Land of Nod.”
“Well go explore somewhere else. I have nothing
left to steal. “
A giant lives in these woods.
“He took my cow. So I have no milk.
He took my chickens. So I have no eggs.
He took my beehives. So I have no honey to sell
at the market.
I shall probably starve.”
“I’m sorry for your troubles and wish I could
help,” said the boy.
“Well you can’t, so just go away,” shouted the
The young boy left the clearing and followed the path into the woods again. The path got steeper as he started to climb. Leaving the trees behind him, he saw a very large house with a very large door. There were chickens in the yard and a cow in a pen. He knew right away it was the giant’s house he saw. A little way off he could hear someone crying. He followed the sound and under a tree was the biggest, tallest man he had ever seen, bigger even than his Dad. The giant had long black hair and a long black beard. His clothes were all dirty and torn. His head in his hands, he was crying and moaning.
“I only wanted some honey. I meant them no harm.”
The giant looked up and shouted at the boy.
“What do you want? Just go away, please.”
“I don’t want anything,” said the boy. “I’m here to explore and see what I can see in this Land of Nod.”
Why are you crying, a big giant like you?” continued the boy.
“I’m crying because I have all these bee stings. I like honey, but the bees won’t let me have any.
They just get mad and sting me all over.” He cried even louder.
“Well maybe you should give them back to the little man down the hill. Then they won’t sting you anymore,” said the little boy.
With that the boy continued to follow the path up and toward the castle on the hill he walked. Inside the castle walls, a great fair was being held. There were acrobats and jugglers, wearing bright colors, and a man breathing fire, just like a dragon. There were stilt walkers weaving their way through the crowds. The gypsies in their tents were telling fortunes for money. They used a mystic ball and claimed to see all.
“Not one stall has any honey!” exclaimed a young girl as she stamped her foot, and started to wail.
She turned and noticed the boy and shouted. “What do you want? Just go away please, unless you have some honey to sell.”
“I don’t have any honey.” replied the boy. “I’m here to explore and see what I can see in this Land of Nod.”
“Go explore somewhere else,” the little girl stormed.
Brenda M. Spalding is a prolific award-winning author. She is often called upon to speak at book clubs, conferences, and writers’ groups. She is a past president of the National League of American Pen Women- Sarasota, Florida Branch, a member of the Sarasota Authors Connection, Sarasota Fiction Writers, Florida Authors and Publishers, and a co-founding member and current president of ABC Books Inc. Ms. Spalding formed Braden River Consulting LLC in 2020 to help other authors on their creative journey. Contacts -www.bradenriverconsulting.com
Short Stories / Unpublished: A General History of the Feminine Brain / Raluca Comanelea / USA
She put a trampoline in the living room where you constantly pass out watching all the TV shows on Earth. With utmost care, she hits pause on the remote control and throws a blanket over you, making sure that your toes are tucked in. She stares intensely. Her feminine brain exhibits a mild intoxication.
Your grandfather’s war medal stares you in the eye, boldly, reminding you of your long-forgotten androgens. Your chubby body remains static. You have long ago reclaimed the divan for your manly needs: pulling a nose hair with vigor, scrolling social media accounts in a premeditated order and hitting those likes mechanistically, caring less if the image depicts a fisherman or a mermaid, stirring into the food in front of you and blowing repeatedly in hopes that it cools off faster because your hunger is devilish. You barely complete 1850 steps on any given Saturday, 4000 on days you go to work, that is, if you’re lucky. Yet, you demand Hot Pockets with crispy crust. In the meantime, her culinary talents are wasted. She cannot compete with this insane need of yours for Hot Pockets.
You dream that your grandfather’s postwar dreams have turned reality with you. She knows they didn’t. You unconsciously wish that she expires first so that you can reclaim the whole length of the divan to yourself. You have not the slightest idea of how much she despises that divan. Her womanly heart has secretly wished for a chesterfield sofa since times immemorial: it’s been too long now to feel any fire burning.
She sits there, alongside you, numbed, waiting for you to fall asleep so that she can pause the show. She screams at the sight of the rodent. You stare emptily because in the end you know that the rodent is way too fast for any attempt at movement. Inside bugs have always given you those nightmarish creeps. Unable to catch the creature, any creature as a matter of fact, you unleash at her, exaggerating the piles of dirt which would consume the whole house. You burst into hysterical laughter because you have just laid a cruel truth out in the open. The whole thing becomes bearable now. She throws a yellow glass tumbler at you. Misses as you slightly incline your head to the left. You both know she is an awful thrower. She hates sports. Nature endowed her greatly. Sometimes you wonder why she is still there in the morning.
She wakes up and wonders if with today’s sun rising she is pregnant. She has learned to cultivate patience in this dry desert she permanently made her home. Her only deep-seated wish for a peaceful evening has been reduced to avoiding the crunchy sound of a crispy Hot Pocket crust coming from a mouth she long idolized, she long kept wet, she long breathed into.
Raluca Comanelea is a woman writer born in Romania. She enjoys green spaces, loose-leaf teas, and fine books. She goes to sleep with the same desire to own more time in the palm of her hand, so that her writing dreams would manifest freely. Raluca is a lover of American theatre and drama, with all sights set on Tennessee Williams and his complex female characterization. From Las Vegas, Nevada, she paints our world in fiction and nonfiction colors. Her imagined universe centers on the human drama lived behind closed doors of a dominator culture, one which pulls the average man into its vortex with an intensity hard to contain. Raluca’s novelette-in-flash, “The Art of Surviving in a Glass of Water,” has been awarded the Finalist title in the Newfound Prose Prize 2021 competition. Raluca’s creative work has been featured in STORGY Magazine, Reflex Fiction, Toho Journal and Secret Attic Journal, among other literary venues. You can connect with Raluca at www.ralucacomanelea.com
Historical fiction – Memoir /Published: Drudgeries for Feat, Identifying and Leveraging Opportunities in a Foreign Country/ Beatrice Hofmann /UK
BECOMING THE BOSS
I detected similarities where everyone saw differences and differences where everyone saw similarities. I was able to create new and unique solutions that resulted in a significant and enduring difference because I provided unique therapeutic services to people in my community around Oberhausen and its vicinity.
I have achieved so much with the support I have received from my network of friends and acquaintances. Be there for people when they need you, they will return your favour when the time comes. Partake in social functions to build your network. A key factor is to learn to network with the right people. For this, one has to understand the difference between acceptable and destructive criticism. A useful tool for this is using a SWOT analysis. It requires identifying the ‘Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats’ of the people in question. Conducting such research periodically on my own business as well as family situations has also helped me to sharpen my understanding of my very own position. Migrants are always a marginalised ethnic minority in any country. For migrants to escape insecurity, adversities and harsh conditions, entrepreneurship becomes the last resort for them to survive. Many migrants have become successful entrepreneurs in America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and several countries across the globe. However, there is a typical pattern in all these activities that ultimately define the migrant entrepreneurial activity and their journey to entrepreneurship, I will describe these patterns using my own personal experiences.
Accumulating and Using Experience
I explored, I discovered, and I assessed my surroundings carefully and drew inferences on solid grounds. During my first years in Germany, I couldn’t go anywhere smoothly because my husband and his family wouldn’t let me, even mere taking my own daughter for an evening stroll wasn’t a walk in the park. Still, after my divorce, I became geographically, physically, and mentally mobile because I wanted to learn to know and expand my knowledge. It is this accumulated knowledge that developed into well-known patterns that revealed themselves in know-how, know-who, know-where, know-what, know-when and know-why that enabled me to quickly identify and exploit opportunities almost instinctively. Knowledge breeds experience, which makes the strange more familiar as factors keep reiterating themselves in ever-increasing clarity. My experience enabled me to master the fundamentals, which allowed me to efficiently react to situations and improvise with intuition.
I could recognise and analyse market opportunities. With a specific combination of handling risk, content, and market, I could redefine ‘risk’ as an opportunity to use my expertise, rather than as a possible reason for failure. I found prospects looking for better ways to provide new services and new approaches as well as explored a segment of the population which I knew could respond to a recent version of services targeted to lifestyle. What helped me is that I had a well-defined sense of searching for opportunities. I was always looking ahead and was less concerned about what I achieved yesterday. Many migrant entrepreneurs have searched for or created opportunities all the time, placing themselves between a chance and shaping themselves to seize it and quickly take advantage before it gets lost. I recognised the importance of being first, fast, and right, striving to seize and take full advantage of opportunities is why I was among the first black women to enter the wellness and beauty therapy industry in Germany. Entrepreneurs must recognise that action skills that get results are more critical than perfections that result from flawless planning.
Tact and Testing the Limits
I understood how different variables impacted on each other from the knowledge I had obtained at home, work, school, relationships and the community; I continually adjusted ends, means, values, and circumstances with the awareness of each impact. All four of the above mentioned decision dimensions are variables and partial determinants of each other. It’s this fluid view of these variables that provided me with the flexibility to determine the ends, forge the means, shape circumstances, and understand their value limits. I understood the German language fluently, the German policies, procedures, and rules of the matrix system; including how and when to stretch them beyond the limits and when to strictly adhere to them. This allowed me to open up the horizon into an opportunity-filled environment that I thought provided only restrictions rather than choices. The diverse experiences that I shared in the previous chapters show how I overstretched on all fronts but didn’t punch above my weight I repeatedly tested my limits and elements of every situation, about my own God-given abilities and talent, my willingness to act, and the power and willingness of my allies and adversaries to act. This usually involves appreciating that the world has no distinct rules of fairness and that the playing field is never level. So, testing limits primarily consists of determining which way the field slants and how to slant the area in one’s favour to keep winning, and that’s precisely what I did.
M/S Beatrice Hofmann is a beauty and wellness therapist, she has practiced her profession for 13 years now. She is a serial entrepreneur and business owner of Nu-life professional-wellness, a company she started in 2010, which she unfortunately closed on the 31.03.2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. A move she says gave her the opportunity to pursue a career in Digital Marketing. Born and raised in Uganda, Beatrice moved to Germany in 1999 and views German as her focal point in life. With this unique background complemented by extensive travel across the globe, she sees herself as a cosmopolitan. Beatrice received the upcoming Entrepreneur Award 2015 of the AWE (African Women in Europe) in Geneva. She is also the co-founding commissioner of a Free University in the city of Oberhausen. She is an author and speaker; she co-authored the African immigrant’s ‘handbook’: “The perfect migrant”: How to Achieve a Successful life in Diaspora in 2018. Her autobiography “Drudgeries for feat “Identifying and leveraging opportunities in a foreign country was launched in December 2020. The book provides an account of the author’s life – that puts forward her story easily and spontaneously about various situations she went through in her native Uganda and Germany where she has now lived for 22 years. The Book, “Neurosensivität”; Die ReiseinsIch, in which she has also Co-authored will be launched very soon. In addition, she is a public speaker and has led and contributed to public seminars. Her journey is a real-life testimony that hard work pays, it is proof that immigrants can build successful lives in foreign countries if they have purpose and direction.
Poetry Unpublished: Resistance /Colin Campbell Robinson / Scotland
The night is late
So my friends, good-bye, and good luck.
Not one of night’s stars is a lie.
On crisp evenings they gather to plot the revolution of everyday Yannis is among them. On their barstools they shift positions. Fortunately he and his chair are in complete agreement.
What is the proletarian moon, I ask? The moon that swells the ocean and floods our heart, he replies. We play these monochords in the timeless way. Line after line, breathing.
He claims to have been taught the world by his body. I believe him. Listen to your own pores.
Can the explanation be in the inexplicable? I can’t explain. Always on foot, he says.
Late and dark, everyone has left the square; only Yannis remains, distractedly shining a shoe against his corduroy leg. A bird lands on a branch, sings about clouds.
What is the centre of the complete circle, I ask? Emptiness, he replies.
Coincidental meanings could collide and create new sense as they speed beyond light. Stars are keyholes, he says. My telescope can’t focus.
Such a light touch: dawn on the horizon. Natural miracle of luminous skin, the magic of response: early prayers. The world reflected in a mirror, eyes reflected in eyes.
Outside the church bells peel the rising sun.
A basket of tomatoes is a rhapsody, as is a gathering of kalamata, a conspiracy of peppers and the soul of bread. Do not forget the singing wine, Yannis says.
Loving the beautiful is necessary in the village of psalms. Roses and walls cling to each other amidst the brazen display of geraniums on a blanched windowsill.
Yannis reveals his codes certain in the knowledge only his comrades will read.
Follow the word, he says, and it will tell you what to write next. And there, in front of you, is the blank page.
The conversation circles till dusk and then we lay plans. How distant are we from walking? How many words before peace?
We are exhausted. We are alone. We climb the same hill. At the summit we find the future, then we descend once again, as in the past.
He can speak because of what he’s done. Even when he greets the morning he means it.
Water is good but not for drowning sorrows. Depth of voice may not indicate depth of purpose. Eyes may betray as easily as hold.
The daily split fingernail: something new to navigate. What about old dogs?
Later, he says we don’t have enough words to speak of nothing; this is on a night when lanterns lit the harbour and the boats lay silted.
Once I finished reading, the mountain stood before me higher than any mountain I’d ever seen before. And then cloud hid the peak.
A little later and its never, Yannis says. A stray black dog stares at the vacancy, seeing what no one wants to see.
I swot at a moth bothering my left ear; I take care not to kill. The moth flutters away only to brush against my candle flame. How many charred memories?
The porch releases the day’s heat. We sit, not daring to move in case we vanish. Even the nightingales cease singing, although, we’re not certain whether they even began.
An old man with a silver cane passes, stumbling from memory to memory in no particular order. He is at the gate. He waves. We wave back as we always do.
Secret signals shine light years away Yannis says, waiting for night.
The order of the sacraments has been disturbed. We have no answers.
The east wind wafts through the empty square where the Abbey once stood.
A muddy track rambles to a village of tuneless accordions; we were happy there.
Quiet; look out the window at the western river. A clock has been drowned. Many suspects roam free on the other side.
Wait for me at the tavern, Yannis says, attempting to reorder life.
His comrades disappear along with their vision, their dreams besmirched by a permanent grey stain.
What lies have been told, Yannis asks as he polishes the butt of his rifle?
Silently he walks the hall of his memory until he finds the door to an empty room.
As he enters the darkness he hears faint breathing, his own, or another?
The night is late.
Colin Campbell Robinson was born in Manchester in 1953 and emigrated with his family to Australia at the age of nine. After a less than dazzling academic career and years of factory work and other jobs, he became involved in community activism working with organisations such as the Tenants Union. In the 1990s he established a social research consultancy and became well known in Australia for his writing on social justice issues collaborating with a variety of non- government organisations to change the situation confronted by people experiencing homelessness, mental health problems, addiction and poverty, often all of the above. Colin returned to Britain in 2003 and continued to do social research work most notably with The Passage, the largest day centre for homeless people in London. Since 2013 he has devoted himself full time to writing and photography. His work has been published in many journals around the world. Knives Forks Spoons Press published his books Blue Solitude in 2018 and Footnotes from History – the Debord Variations in 2021. Colin currently lives on the Isle of Bute off the west coast of Scotland.
Letter of Recommendation
by Kurt Luchs
To Whom It May Concern:
It is my pleasure to recommend Kurt Luchs for employment at your company. I have known Kurt for nearly six years and I can honestly say that I have not known any other Kurt for nearly as long.
Kurt was with our firm, Pendleton Tool & Die Co., for five and a half of those years. His employment with us ended amicably and by mutual agreement between both parties and the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In fact, Kurt was so dedicated that he stopped coming in each morning only when his desk was removed and the locks were changed. Every once in a while, I think I see his face behind a ventilation grille.
During his tenure with us, Kurt held a number of positions reflecting his range of talents and responsibilities: administrative assistant, assistant to the administrator, assistant administrator’s aide, administering assistant’s associate, and filing clerk. While it would be an exaggeration to say that he performed all his duties, it would be entirely fair to say that he performed them all equally well. In fact there was a consistency and tone to Kurt’s job performance that I have never before seen in a living employee— call it an almost supernatural sense of calm. There were times when only a mirror held to Kurt’s nostrils would reveal the fiery spirit and pulsing intellect within.
I credit Kurt entirely for inspiring the recent overhaul of our human resources department’s background-checking system. His knack for creative self-expression, by which he trans- formed a three-year stretch in a state reformatory into an M.B.A. from Harvard, was a constant source of amusement.
While some people can be described as “all heart” or “all head,” the best way to describe Kurt is “all hands.” From a friendly pat on the behind to a friendly pat of butter on the chest, he touched his female colleagues in more ways than most of them had ever heard of.
He was close to his male co-workers, too: in fact, on several occasions it took a stun gun to pry them apart. There were a few who had a hard time seeing Kurt’s good-natured roughhousing in the proper light. But in my opinion he never crossed the all-important line between first-degree manslaughter and second- degree murder.
I envy the next company that adds Kurt to its payroll. Why? Because hiring Kurt is like getting a free law school education. You may think you understand the First Amendment, but I’ll bet you had no idea that an employee has the constitutional right to emit sudden, piercing shrieks and deafening bursts of profanity near a fellow worker operating an industrial laser.
Kurt also displayed an uncommon willingness and ability to follow instructions—not my instructions but, rather, those he received from the voice in his head.
Kurt’s influence on everyone in our company was so extensive that there are still employees who won’t start their cars with- out checking under the hood first. You ask how and why Kurt left our company. Unfortunately, a court order prevents me from sharing all the details. But I can say in perfect candor that I heartily recommend Kurt as a resourceful and indefatigable addition to some other firm. Any other firm.
Thomas R. Pendleton President Pendleton Tool & Die Co.
Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) has poems published in Plume Poetry Journal, The Sun Magazine, and London Grip. He won the 2022 Pushcart Prize, as well as the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He has written humor for the New Yorker, the Onion and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. and he has also written comedy for television (Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilbourn) and radio (American Comedy Network). His humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’sReally Funny) (2017), and his poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up (2021), are both published by Sagging Meniscus Press. His poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (2019), is published by Finishing Line Press. He lives in Portage, Michigan.
PRIZE / CATEGORY: Novels /Unpublished:
The Accidental Time Traveller / Sylvia Bluck /UK
Lily stumbles into the woods, eyes blurred by tears, brambles catching at her bare legs. Her friends are close behind, calling after her to come back, insisting that she’s mis-heard. Bloody liars. Their pitying looks confirmed that. She speeds up, twisting and turning through the trees, crushing bluebells as she runs. When she’s sure she’s lost them, she slows her pace and stops. Sinking to her knees, she covers her face and groans. It all makes sense now. Matt’s late nights, his lame excuses and his sudden, delicious bursts of affection. She bangs her fists on the ground and the pain feels good. She’s been blind and stupid. So stupid, stupid, stupid. She must go home and confront him. Impossible now to stay here and unclenching her fists, she gets to her feet and takes a few purposeful steps back the way she came.
What the …? She stops dead. Where are the bluebells? All around her, everything is green except for a few papery seed heads and she grasps a handful and scrunches them into tiny bits. Tilting her head left and right, she squints through her eyelashes, trying different angles. Maybe the bluebells only grow at the edge of the woods? She nods to herself. That’ll be it. She wasn’t paying attention. Retracing her steps, she looks out for any hint of blue but even at the edge of the woods, there are no bluebells. She rubs the last few seeds from her hands and shrugs. To be honest, missing bluebells are the least of her worries.
Squaring her shoulders, she steps out into the sunshine to face her friends. For a moment, the brightness dazzles her and shading her eyes, she scans the empty field. Where the hell are they? She runs to the spot where they’d set up camp and as she shouts their names, a crow flies up, cawing angrily. She feels in her bra for her phone. Damn. She must have put the bloody thing down on the picnic table. Her stomach lurches. But where’s the picnic table? And where’s the car, come to that?
She runs back into the woods, calling out to her friends. Picking up a stick, she bangs it on a tree and the sound ricochets around the woods like gunshots. As the echoes fade into silence, she stands listening, her heart thudding in her ears. They’ve clearly gone and left her here, in the middle of nowhere. She gives a vicious kick to a stone on the path, and it skitters away into the bushes. Bastards. She’ll have something to say when she sees them – if she ever speaks to them again.
She sets off through the trees and back to the farm track where they drove down that morning. The fields are now shimmering in the heat and as she climbs, sweat snakes down her back. Stopping under the shade of a tree to catch her breath, she leans back against the trunk and looks up. Dead crows are tied to a branch above her head and swing gently in the breeze. She recoils, exclaiming in disgust and hurries on.
In a few minutes, she reaches the top of the track, a cloud of midges whining around her head. She bats them away. Bloody countryside. And of course she’s the only idiot out hiking in this heat. Even the sheep have sense enough to move into the shade – although she doesn’t remember any sheep – weren’t there crops in the fields when they drove in? She gives a little shake of her head. Obviously, there can’t have been. The unshaded track stretches across the fields and she knows there’s nothing that way for miles. It’s a no-brainer to choose the footpath ahead through the trees.
In half a mile, it turns into a gravelled road with hedges on each side and Lily smiles to herself as she glimpses people in a garden gathered around a table. One of them will let her use their phone. From the garden gate, she can see the table is covered with white linen, tiered silver cake-stands and bowls of yellow roses. A woman in a smart black uniform and a white cap is carrying a tray back to the porticoed house. Lily groans. Just her luck to be crashing a wedding-party. Wishing she were wearing more than skimpy shorts, she takes a deep breath and opens the gate.
I was inspired to write this novel sitting around a campfire in a small wood in the English countryside, imagining walking into the trees and coming out into a different time. What might happen? Who would you meet? Would you ever get home?
To learn the novel writing craft (and to get the novel written), I studied on the two year Creative Writing Course with New Writing South, Brighton, UK and with the Novelry online course. As I’ve worked on this novel, I’ve had lots of brilliant help and feedback from fellow writers in Brighton and around the world. The novel has been long-listed for the Exeter, Flash 500 and Cinnamon first novel prizes; short-listed for the Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award; and a finalist in the Page Turner Novel Awards and Eludia Novel Award. In my day job, I work for the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (but not in a Time Travel Unit) and live in Brighton, with my partner and two almost fully-fledged children. We have a small wood in the countryside where I go to write.
GRAND PRIZE /Published / poetry /Alicia Hokanson /Perishable World /Ed.: Pleasure Boat Studio/USA
Eurydice, In Winter
Today deep frost on the Field of Asphodel and the children exclaiming,
It looks just like snow.
I could almost remember excitement like theirs– that loose fire in the blood.
I watch the ferryman on the black river struggle to lift coins from mouths of the fallen. His hands can barely hold them,
but I can see he wants so much to feel their glittering weight.
In this place everything falls away and falls away– even the hound patrolling the bank
is only growls and posturing.
Though I have begged the goddess
for some small remnant of my other life, she cannot help. She is only a cold, pale girl who misses her mother.
You know what I long for—
notes along the deep chord strung between breast and thigh,
the least pull away a death
if your arm leaves the nest of my side.
What a disturbance of earth and sky—
until we open our eyes, gathered back into the world.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Alicia Hokanson grew up exploring the beaches, forests, and islands of Puget Sound, which inspired a deep attention to the natural world. Her first book, Mapping the Distance, was selected by Carolyn Kizer for the King County Arts Commission publication prize. She has also published two chapbooks, Phosphorous and Insistent in the Skin, and her poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals and anthologies. Her most recent collection, Perishable World, was published in summer of 2021. Upon completing her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Washington, Alicia pursued a career teaching in a variety of venues, from working with high-school students in South Australia to teaching grades 1-8 in a one-room schoolhouse on a remote island in Washington state. She spent the last 27 years of her career teaching middle school English in Seattle, and was named River of Words Poetry Teacher of the year in 2003 for her work nurturing young writers. She now devotes her time to writing, reading, and advocating for social and environmental justice.
GRAND PRIZE /Unpublished: Bridge over the Neretva / novel / Django Wylie /Switzerland
First there is the commotion; then there is the quiet. Jakov watches his brother stand at the apex of the bridge, shifting slightly from one bare foot to the other. The crowd whispers with nervous excitement. He can sense them silently calculating the distance of the drop — anticipating a stunning success — but possibly also a little hungry for disaster. A young child starts to cry, but is quickly hushed by its mother. Jakov sees Mehmed tilt his head upwards, perhaps in prayer, or perhaps in an attempt to briefly divert his attention from the eager water below. He is among a forest of cameras and phones, ready to capture the dive from a hundred different angles and to secure the spectators some ‘likes’ on their Instagrams. For the next minute, he is an event rather than a person. But Jakov can sense something more elemental at work here. Undoubtedly, Mehmed is skilled at what he does. But his diving seems more a triumph of instinct over technique. His ability seems intuitive; it derives, Jakov thinks, from having had this bridge — and this schismatic river — at the centre of his life from the troubled moment of his birth.
At last the time has come. The crowd holds its collective breath. Mehmed lifts both of his lean, muscular arms above his body. He then lowers them, taking on a messianic pose in the glare of the golden sun. He bends his knees slightly, and then, in one bold action, propels himself forwards off of the bridge. At once, there is a crush, a press, a clamour, to get the perfect shot of the diver hitting the water. From the banks below, a few tourists playing cards, and drinking large bottles of Mostarsko, stop and stare at the diving man. They watch as Mehm’s body plunges towards the tiny pocket of dazzling turquoise, nestled amongst the rocky shallows and the weeds. Jakov wonders what his brother thinks about in the second or so it takes to reach the water. Is he focussed on the dive, he wonders; on making the necessary calibrations to his body’s movement to ensure he reaches that small haven of glittering blue? Does he see the tourists, marvelling at a man, not remarkably unlike them, yet doing something they could never do? Or is his mind gorgeously, serenely blank? And, if so, is that why he dives so much — to briefly leave behind the thronging turmoil of all there is and all that has gone before?
His brother hits the water and a silvery effusion leaps high into the air. The crowd on the bridge begins to applaud. Below, a small clutch of canoes is deployed to guide Mehmed to shore. This is Jakov’s cue. He turns and works his way around the spectators, most of whom are already beginning to drift away in search of other diversions. “Spare change for the diver?” he asks, in English. “Fifty kuna?” he says. “Five euros? Ten marks for the dive?” A few people pay, but the majority either pat their pockets apologetically, or frown at him. Jakov tries to target the Americans. Used to paying for everything all the time, they are often the most generous. “Excuse me, sir, for the diver? I’m sorry, we can only accept US dollars in amounts above one thousand.” He beams.
/ Django Wylie /Switzerland /I’m an English and Drama teacher, based in Switzerland. I hold an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths and studied poetry at UC Berkeley. In 2017, I was the recipient of the Yeovil Literary Prize, and in 2019 I won the Indigo Dreams Firsts Competition. I had a prose manuscript shortlisted for the London Magazine First Novel Award and the Blue Pencil Agency Novel Award. My first collection of poetry, New and Selected Heartbreaks, was published in May of 2019.